Monday, August 30, 2010

Camping: roasted sweet potatoes and bean burgers with all the fixings

Salmon baked with honey-mustard glaze; scallion mashed potatoes

Whenever we visit Ashland, we like to stay at the cute Columbia Hotel. Most of the rooms do not have private bathrooms — there are showers off the halls — but the room we stay in does have a kitchen (although it is small, with only a minifridge, and minimally equipped). Having a kitchen is a huge benefit when traveling: between dinner and breakfast, we save $40 or $50 per night, and we get to enjoy the cooking and the better food. Columbia Hotel also offers free wireless.

In previous visits to Ashland we've shopped at the Safeway. This time, we looked online, and found the excellent Ashland Food Coop. Organic almost-everything, decent wine selection, good produce and cheese — definitely the supermarket for us. We bought some Alaskan salmon and red potatoes; we baked the salmon with a glaze of mustard, honey, garlic, and olive oil, and we boiled the potatoes and mashed them with olive oil and minced scallions. To pair with the dinner we had a Pinot Gris from Montinore Estate, a Willamette Valley vineyard. It's amazing how much better Willamette Valley pinots (gris and noir) are than similar wines from almost anywhere else.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Camping and Shakespeare

For the final trip in our trip-full summer we drove to Oregon. If you ever find yourself driving between Oregon and the Bay Area, there are two fantastic places to stop for picnics. First is Castle Crags State Park, about four hours north of Berkeley. If you are too hungry, stop instead at William B. Ide Adobe State Historic Park for a lovely lunch along the river.

We arrived in Ashland, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, in time to go shopping, make dinner (when we visit Ashland, we stay at the very cute Columbia Hotel, which has a room with a kitchen), and attend the evening, outdoors performance of Merchant of Venice. The next morning we drove to the Applegate River area, south east of Jacksonville, about an hour from Ashland, where we found a beautiful campsite at Jackson Campground. Hiking and swimming ensued.

The next day, the third on our trip, we returned to Ashland for more shopping, a walk through Ashland's lovely Lithia Park, and a matinee: a cute adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. We finished our camping trip with a day hike and after a night in the hotel and three nights camping we packed up and drove to Eugene, just in time for me to attend a week-long conference while B hung out with my family.

Composed salad with soft-boiled eggs, cooked shrimp, beets, orange cherry tomatoes, fava beans, yellow haricots verts, niçoise olives, and anchovies

The haricots verts, favas, and cherry tomatoes are from the garden. The baguette is homemade.

A fantastic way to cook eggs for salad is to bring water to a boil and simmer the eggs for only five to six minutes, depending on the size. Plunge the eggs into ice water to help the protein retract from the shell. Carefully crack and peel the eggs without blemishing the white, and serve them whole. The idea is that the yellow is still completely runny, so that it mixes with the lettuce when the you begin to eat the egg during the meal. (This is particularly nice for composed salads in which the lettuce is very strongly dressed — since I don't dress the rest of the veggies much, I tend to mash a clove of garlic per person into the lettuce's dressing.) For a yellow that's completely cooked through, I like to simmer my extra-large eggs twelve minutes (less time for smaller eggs).

The best way to cook beets for a salad is to remove all but half an inch of stem, wash well, and wrap the beets unpeeled and still wet in foil. Bake for at least an hour (you'll need the oven hot for the bread anyway), and then plunge in ice water. The skin should slough off easily.

We've tried various tins of anchovy fillets, and been somewhat unhappy with all of them. Part of the problem is that each tin has about twelve fillets, whereas even three fillets per person is generous. Our only really good anchovies have been from the cafe at Berkeley Bowl, but they only seem to come wholesale in tins of many hundred. In any case, this tin of anchovies-rolled-around-capers was OK, but very meaty-fishy tasting, and too overpowering for our tastes. If you have a favorite inexpensive anchovy fillet, please let me know.

Hand-made pesto with hand-made semolina egg noodles

Two of the odder things in our neighborhood

Breakfast: scrambled eggs with scallions, melon, and whole wheat english muffins with homemade jams

Shrimp shumai

Shell and devein large prawns, and process them through a meat grinder. Mince scallions, garlic, and ginger, and mix with the prawns. You may also want to add an egg or some cornstarch — you're basically making prawn sausage filling.

Mold the shumai by putting ½ Tbsp filling in the center of a wrapper, then wetting the edge and folding it around the filling, leaving the top a little open. Place the dumplings in a steamer, and steam until the shrimp is pink throughout (I think we took ours off a little early). If you like, heat some oil (a mix of vegetable oil and a little sesame oil is nice) in a non-stick pan and fry the outsides of the shumai until crispy.

Baked halibut with summer squash and Italian herbs

Last night in Indian Lake: homemade bread, hummus, baba ghanoush, and salad

Second dinner at Indian Lake: cod baked with onion, mashed sweet potato, and garlic green beans

Breakfasts and lunches at Indian Lake

We don't have a lot of variety in our breakfasts: we poach eggs very well. Each morning at Indian Lake we began by sleeping in, and then having a late breakfast of poached eggs on english muffins, strawberries and blueberries, and a full pot of strong coffee. Over breakfast, we would appreciate the view of the lake and plan that day's hike.

With only two full days at the lake, there were many hikes we did not do, but the two we did were great. Our neighbors immediately to the south are also our cousins: my grandmother met my grandfather because they had neighboring summer homes, and the (now-extended) families have kept the properties. They encouraged us to borrow two of their kayaks, and sent us across the lake (about one mile) to a cove directly on the opposite side. "Go across, look back to see if there's any weather coming, and if it's clear, just beach the kayak, and follow signs for the trail" we were instructed. Sure enough, the weather was clear, and the hike to the top of Baldy was a blast.

For our second day, we baked bread (letting the dough rise overnight and doing the baking in the morning) and made sandwiches with brie, apples, and basil. We climbed Snowy, which ends with a fantastic scramble up what is essentially a dry-ish waterfall rock pile. On our last day, we took leftovers down to the dock before driving to the airport, and wished we could stay at Indian Lake longer.